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WirelessDevNet LBS

GIS Movers and Shakers Target LBS

By: GeoCommunity Staff, Editor, The GeoCommunity
Date: February 13, 2001

It's kind of funny, I've worked in the GIS industry for 10 years and now I'm also involed in the development of wireless solutions, internet mapping, and other location specific projects, yet I often find myself wondering what exactly are location-based solutions and how is this any different from any other GIS, GPS, CAD or geo-spatial solution? It seems like many people have their own perception of what LBS' are. What sets LBS apart from traditional geo-spatial solutions is an implied "wireless" or "mobile" component. The location in LBS is basically a given. Really isn't any GIS based project or application a location-based service? Sure it is. So, to make it simple, think of location-based services as a solution to a location dependent problem developed to be mobile and portable. LBS' are generally developed to integrate wired, wireless, and voice enabled devices. LBS apps. are developed to be accessible via wired and wireless devices, web browsers, pagers, phones or ?? If your still unsure, read on to find out how the leading players in the traditional GIS industry are getting involved in LBS. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of companies claiming to be involved in delivering LBS solutions (just pick up a copy of WirlessWorld or InfoWorld and you'll see what I mean), however, I've chosen to to take a look at traditional GIS companies and explain how they are now marketing themselves as Location-Based Service providers.


MapInfo Mobile

Slogan: MapInfo provides location-based solutions and services that help businesses better...

MapInfo bills a section dedicated to wireless, location-based technologies as "MapInfo Mobile". you won't find them with a new or dedicated web portal, however, upon visiting the website there's definitely a wireless focus to the content. The company's end user customers can now use their web-enabled mobile phone or Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) to be located and to access information and services relevant to where they are. Driving this is the company's MapInfo MapXtend™ "A robust developer environment for creating location-based wireless handheld applications." MapXtend™, Java™ Technology Edition is a developer tool for creating location-based applications running on wireless handheld devices. The technology is touted as scalable and flexible. It integrates with other MapInfo Internet technologies, including MapInfo® MapXtreme® mapping server, MapInfo® MapMarker® geocoding engine, and MapInfo® Routing J Server. What are its uses? Example applications include; Network alarm response, Infrastructure repairs, Call-before-you-dig, and field access.

Supported Databases:
  • Oracle 8i Enterprise Edition Release 8.1.5 or 8.1.6 with Oracle 8i Spatial Option Release 8.1.5 or 8.1.6
  • Oracle 8.0.x (running MapInfo® SpatialWare™ 4.0)
  • MapInfo tables
  • Informix Universal Server 9.14 (running with SpatialWare 4.0)
  • IBM DB2 Universal Database 5.0 (running with SpatialWare 4.0)
  • Microsoft SQL Server 7.0
  • Microsoft Access
Supported Software:
  • MapInfo Software Supported (Administrator)
  • MapInfo® MapXtreme™ Java™ Edition 3.1
  • MapInfo® MapMarker J Server™ 2.1
  • MapInfo® Routing J Server™ 1.1
Demonstrations and downloads are available HERE

Autodesk Location Services

Slogan: Powering Location-Based Technologies...

Launched on January 23, 2001, Autodesk is the proud owner of the newest LBS focused portal. The company will be using this site to promote the company's solutions designed for developers of location-based applications. The featured products are not new, however, it looks like this website will be the home for everything you wanted to know about Autodesk OnSite and Autodeks MapGuide Commerce. Autodesk MapGuide® Commerce is for developing and operating hosted environments that deliver commercial location-based services. What caught my eye was a section called the "robust development platform " which is to be announced. The LBS platform combines Autodesk core technology, web expertise, and mapping experience to make it the platform of choice for wireless carriers, network operators, and application developers. Look for solutions that will integrate spatial, non-spatial, and other database products with wirelessdevices, wired networks, and even voice recgnition systems.

It appears that partnerships have already been struck. Ericsson, Geodan Mobile Solutions, Palm Computing, Oracle, and AvantGo are all on board and the call is out for other interested partners and developers to touch base with the company. In North America, interested partners are requested to contact (415) 507-4454 or email locationservices@autodesk.com. A number of other points of conotact are listed on the website.

You can visit the Autodesk Location Services Website at http://locationservices.autodesk.com

Want the whole story about Autodesk Location Services? You might find this White Paper titled "Autodesk Location Services" (PDF) to be useful.

About Autodesk OnSite

Autodesks's solution to enterprise asset management for mobile field workforces is one of the first products for handheld devices designed for managing maps, data, and designs while in the field. The outcome of a partnership between Autodesk and Oracle, Autodesk® OnSite "is an end-to-end enterprise business system that delivers interactive map and design information to a mobile workforce."

Requirements: Palm Vx mobile device, Palm OS 3.3, Fujitsu PenCentra 130, Symbol PPT 2700, WinCE 2.11
Autodesk OnSite servlet technology:Pentium-based PC, 128MB RAM, Autodesk MapGuide Release 4 software, Windows NT Server 4.0, Microsoft Internet Information Server 4.0, Allaire JRun
Cost: request info at enterprise.sales@autodesk.com.

Autodesk OnSite uses three leading technologies:
  • Oracle 8i and Oracle 8i Lite
  • Palm Computing and Microsoft Windows CE handheld devices
  • Autodesk MapGuide® web software

    Supported Vector data formats:
    • Autodesk MapGuide SDF and SDL files
    • Autodesk DWG and DXF™
    • Autodesk VISION*®
    • Oracle8i Spatial
    • ESRI ArcView SHP
    • ESRI ARC/INFO coverage
    • Intergraph DGN
    • MapInfo MIF/MID
    • Atlas BNA
    • CSV (comma-delimited file)
    Supported Databases:
    • Oracle8i (and Oracle8i Lite)
    • Sybase
    • Informix
    • MS Access
    • dBase III and IV
    • Other OLE/DB-compatible databases

    IntelliWhere

    Slogan: Intelligence About Where You Are...

    On December 14, 2000 Intergraph officially threw their hat into the wireless/LBS arena with the announcement of a new global division... IntelliWhere. The new division brings industry-proven technology to emerging wireless and location-based services industries. In the words of Intergraph Corp., "IntelliWhere is a software and solutions infrastructure provider focused specifically on the wireless and location-based service industries."

    At the heart of the Intelliwhere site is the new "Solution" section. This area gives up details about the IntelliWhere™ Genie. IntelliWhere™ Genie is a solution that allows you to deliver and receive information that is related to a particular location, such as:
    • your current location (e.g. find my nearest ATM)
    • other locations (e.g. Show me how to get from Customer A to Customer B, avoiding the traffic jams)
    • complex location analysis (e.g. show me which valves to turn off to isolate gas supply at this location)
    Specific characteristics that make IntelliWhere™ Genie special include:
    • Device independence
    • Data format independence
    • Scalable, supporting multi-processor, multi-server distributed environments
    • Fast - proven to support over 500,000 maps per day output
    • Open, industry standard architecture
    • Fast development - using industry standard tools
    • Proven in practice - and owned by the largest geo-spatial solutions company in the world.
    Those of you requiring specific details about Intelliwhere Genie should visit the IntelliWhere Solutions page. This white paper titled IntelliWhere™ Genie for the Enterprise will get you started!

    Press Release - Intergraph Announces the Launch of a New Global Division Called IntelliWhere

    ESRI Location Services

    Slogan: Harness the Power of Location: GIS by ESRI

    So far it looks like ESRI is the last one of the 'major' GIS players to not clearly define if or how they are going to enter the LBS arena. Sure they have ArcPad, however, all the other players seem to be setting up vertical sectors (and vertical web portals) targetted at the "sexy" LBS industry. Recently, you may have noticed a couple of attempts on ESRI's part to bolster their presence in this market. A re-launch of JavaLocationServices, a joint effort of SUN and ESRI was announced. Visitors to this site will find papers, product literature, and solutions, all focused on ESRI solutions focused on location-based services. All of ESRI's popular products are prominently featured, and particularly interesting is a section that lists a number of LBS solutions offered by a host of competing and complementary vendors (some of the listings are out of date ie. Autodesk's Project Mauii). More recently is a new section at esri.com targeted at Telecomunications and Location Services. What first caught my eye was an excellent definition of Location Services Solutions.
    Locating people, places, and assets has always been an important endeavor. Now with the convergence of wireless communications, network computing, location determination, and increasingly portable devices, the implementation of location services and applications demands powerful and easy-to-use geographic information system (GIS) tools.

    "Location services combine GIS applications with easy-to-use mobile devices to provide information wherever and whenever it is needed. The GIS technology behind these services will empower an increasingly diverse range of applications, putting even more valuable information in the hands of mobile users." Jack Dangermond, president, ESRI (quote from JavaLocationServices website)
    Early in March, 2001 I had the pleasure of meeting one on one with Jack Dangermond at the GITA conference in San Diego. Regarding LBS, Dangermond pointed out that there are some 300+ LBS sites currently using ESRI technology for travel, directions, emergency response, and more than 500+ systems currently in place for routing and delivery. ESRI's involvement in LBS actually dates back a number of years with major milestones including e-gov, yellowpages, realtor.com, and visa.com which was launched in 1994. With the Geography network now in full swing and part of ESRI's "GNET" architecture, increased sharing of data is now possible via a distributed network environment. This has helped to lay the foundation for a server based system and given a real shot in the arm to the GIS industry. ESRI's solution and focus on LBS is to deliver the LBS core technology and partners do the hosting.

    I'm sure we will hear more from ESRI in the future as they go after a bigger piece of the LBS market. With almost 1 million seats (avg. of 10 seats per customer) and an annual growth rate of 22% ESRI does not need to convince us that they wish to target the LBS market; thay already have!

    Vicinity

    Slogan: Turning Web Traffic Into Store Traffic...

    Vicinity is a name you might not associate with traditional GIS but you better think of them if your interested in LBS. You may be familiar with Vicinity's mapping technology - MapBlast! (www.mapblast.com). Mapblast! is a leading provider of interactive maps and online driving directions and. Mapblast! is a free service and anyone can easily incorporate their maps into a website. A common use for this has been to produce a quick graphic showing customers how to locate you.

    Vicinity has built on their expertise by enabling users of the latest in wireless technologies to perform a number of location-based functions including; spatial searches, "near me" routines, proximity searches, geocoding of addresses, and user location identification.

    Partnerships with Verizon Wireless, Omnisky, At&T, Palm, and Nextel Online are in place making their services available from a number of wireless service providers.

    A white paper detailing Vicinity's Business Finder Solution (PDF) will provide you with additional information

    Other Players

    Over the past 2 years we've run thousands of news releases via SpatialNews. During that time several companies have received a fair bit of my attention. These are companies that likely won't show up in a search for GIS, geo-spatial, GPS companies. They are, however, companies that I find have made great strides in penetrating the LBS arena and will likely be names that you will become more familiar with in the future as trhe LBS and GIS worlds collide.

    @Road (pronounced at-road) - In 1998 @Road unveiled an Internet-based Mobile Resource Management (MRM) solution and built an open platform Application Program Interface (API) to address mobile commerce industry partners interested in using the @Road patented technology. @Road is expanding its fully scalable network to offer a wide realm of LocationSmart services that can be accessed through any web-connected device.

    AirFlash - AirFlash, Inc. is a service provider (ASP) of wireless location and m-Commerce infrastructure. Founded in July 1998 by industry pioneer Rama Aysola, AirFlash provides relevant and accurate location-specific information to mobile carriers and portals for services such as: yellow pages and directions; local events, movies and attractions; and travel and commuter updates through its patent-pending SmartZone environment. If you have a data-capable mobile phone, then you can try out a US-based demo service at http://aws.airflash.com

    InfoMove - developer of personalized, location-based applications and wireless services tailored for use in the automobile. The company integrates driver-specific content and applications and private-labels its services to strategic partners for wireless delivery to consumers through handheld PC's, cellular phones and in-dash car systems.

    JShape - you may have heard of JShape and maybe KShape but what about MShape? MShape is an internet mobile map viewer. By specifing the desired ZIP Code or Telephone Number, MShape can zoom-in and display the map at the focused area. Key components are:
  • MShape Map Viewer - a micro map viewer on J2ME KVM devices
  • JSGateway - a UDP-TCP protocol converter gateway, which receives the map requests from MShape Map Viewers and pass them to MShape Map Server
  • MShape Map Server - is an HTTP based map server, which dynamically generates the map images based on the requested from the MShape Map Viewers. Don't expect any fancy marketing from the developer, however, the "x"Shape products continue to evolve.

    Kivera - provides products for Web, wireless, and in-vehicle applications. You can host and run Powered by Kivera private-label services from your own site, or soon via the Kivera ASP service center. Kivera absorbs data about our physical world - roads, business, residences, contacts, landmarks, etc... and translates it into a standard form that is optimized for fast searching, routing and display. It then distributes the results in many formats for customers on the web, on the road and on the phone. Kivera is in trial deployment with its WAP location service. A demo of how Kivera functions on a WAP phone is available here. Kivera has partnerships established with AAA, SUN, GDT, BeVocal, Denso, XYPoint, NavTech, and GeoVector.

    Tadpole-Cartesia - Tadpole-Cartesia, a division of Tadpole Technology Plc, is a pioneer of Java-based field information systems for the world’s utility, telecommunications and public service industries. Its enterprise-wide field information system Cartesia brings the full advantages of corporate workflow to the mobile environment. Tadpole-Cartesia's Conic family of products addresses all the needs of a field workforce: access, collection, verification and update of spatially related information. The heart of Tadpole’s Cartesia field information system is its Enterprise Field Server (EFS) to coordinate and manage information workflow to and from the field. I recently had the pleasure of getting a first hand look at the J-Slate, Tadpole's Reliable, Rugged, Powerful and Inexpensive Mobile Computing device.

    Webraska - Webraska is a worldwide provider of wireless navigation, mapping and traffic information services and technologies for telecom operators and car manufacturers. The company delivers turn-by-turn directions and proximity services and traffic maps to wireless operators. The Webraska Global Navigation Database contains all the digital map, real-time traffic, point of interest and public transport network data accessed by the Global Navigation Server. They are featured in the news fairly often and will likely turn up even more regularly now that they have secured some major financing (€52 Million).

    Wireless Location Industry Association (WLIA) - Like any other industry, wireless organizations are popping up. Approximately eight or nine companies in the wireless location industry are members. WLIA is the voice of the emerging wireless location industry. WLIA's member companies provide hardware, software, services and other products related to the new ability to locate the precise origin of wireless radio signals and add consumer value based on the geography of wireless users. The Deadline for becoming a Charter Member is March 31, 2001. WLIA FactSheet (PDF)

    Suggested LBS Reading

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